Nate Oats's philosophy is not a complicated one. Take smart shots on offense and play high-level defense. When you begin to break that down, however, is when it begins to get a little complicated.

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If you haven't heard from the 34 broadcasts that have brought it up this season, Nate Oats is a former math teacher. His definition of 'smart' shots on offense includes high-percentage shots and open three-point shots. According to hoop-math, shots at the rim are made 53% of the time, and three-point shots are made 32% of the time. The 'mid-range' (shots outside the paint but inside the three-point line) are made just 26% of the time. Alabama shot just 3.5% of their attempts this season from the midrange, although they are making them at a 38.2% clip. In their last five games, Alabama is making 50% of the midrange shots they take.

Alabama has their stride on offense over their last 10 games, averaging 91.8 points per game. This is also with Latrell Wrightsell Jr and Rylan Griffen missing time due to injury, so Alabama was not even at full strength. It's Alabama's defense that has been the downfall, with the Crimson Tide allowing 90.6 points per game over their last 10 games, including three games where they allowed over 100 points. Nate Oats has had a message for his team ever since the defensive struggles began: Don't let offensive results determine defensive effort.

After Alabama lost to the Florida Gators in the SEC tournament, Oats talked about Alabama's defensive effort, "If we play defense for 40 minutes, we can play with anybody in the country. If we decide to take 24 minutes off from the defensive end, it's gonna be hard to beat anybody in the NCAA Tournament."

Defense is one of Oats's main driving points for his team, and Alabama started to heed the warning against Charleston in the first round of the NCAA tournament. However, Alabama's defense 'collapsed' against the Cougars in the final minutes. After the Crimson Tide's 109-96 win over the Cougars, Oats said, "We've had this issue with this team all year. I think they play the scoreboard too much. We built a 31-point lead and I would have to go look and see what the last seven, or eight minutes of that game. We just got up 31 and we quit guarding, which is a little frustrating, but it's not the time of the year to really kind of jump these guys right after you just scored 109 points in an NCAA tournament game.

Alabama saw that defensive effort on full display on Sunday against Grand Canyon, with the Crimson Tide allowing just 61 points in a game officiated extremely tight. Nate Oats spoke about Alabama's defense after that game, "We really try to build the program on toughness, blue collar and it hasn't been what we'd like to see all the year. It was there tonight. Without it, we don't win tonight."

Blue-collar basketball was on full display on Sunday.

Nate Oats spoke with Ryan Fowler on Monday afternoon inside The Game. He was asked about the Crimson Tide's defensive improvement in the tournament,

"Effort was the biggest thing, but I also think there has been better attention to detail. When you play hard, you move your feet better and keep the ball out of the way...Effort changes a lot of things. We didn't give up as many blowbys, we contested threes a lot harder. When we did get beat, we contested at the rim and made some better plays. Somebody sent me something we're the 38th-best defense in the country. I told the guys that if you have the number one offense in the country and a top-40 defense, you can make a run to the Final Four. We've been top-40, and to be honest with you, that's with the major collapse after we got the 31-point lead against Charleston. If we had stayed locked in for the full 40, I told our guys we might have a top-20 defense right now with as hard as we played."

Alabama's defense has played at a top-40 level since entering the NCAA tournament. If they hope to make the second Elite Eight in program history, Alabama will need the defensive effort to maintain their level. The Crimson Tide will tip off against the North Carolina Tar Heels at roughly 8:40 p.m. CT on CBS.

You can listen to Ryan Fowler's full interview with Nate Oats here.

Listen to Inside The Game With Ryan Fowler every weekday from 2-6 p.m. on Tide 100.9 and streaming on the Tide 100.9 app.

Alabama's Hard-Fought Win Over GCU

Gallery Credit: Wyatt Fulton

Alabama Men's Basketball vs Charleston

Gallery Credit: Wyatt Fulton

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